WELCOME TO DUNBRIDGE ACADEMY
Falling in love wasn't on Emma's agenda for her year abroad at Dunbridge Academy, the boarding school where her parents once met. Here she wants to find out where her father disappeared to when he left their family all those years ago. She has no time for distractions.
But when she meets fellow student Henry, Emma knows she's in trouble. During secret midnight parties and moonlit walks through the old school buildings, feelings grow between them, and Emma feels powerless to resist. But Henry has a girlfriend and Emma doesn't want her heart broken . . .
Discover the new, heart-pounding romance series that's perfect for anyone who loves Hannah Grace, Elsie Silver and LJ Shen.
'An amazing book about love and dark academia' 5* reader review
'I laughed and I cried' 5* reader review
'Incredible, I couldn't put it down' 5* reader review
Release date: November 23, 2023
Publisher: Quercus Publishing
Print pages: 496
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
I just plain overslept. On the day I’m travelling. And there’s no way Mum can find out about this or she’ll freak. She was so doubtful yesterday, after it had been confirmed that, with the stupid ground crew being on strike in France, she couldn’t get back in time to fly to Edinburgh with me. Like an eighteen-year-old was totally incapable of getting to the airport alone and flying to Scotland. Mind you, I’d be going into a class with people younger than me because I needed to start at the beginning of the A-level course, not halfway through.
What can I say? Looks like she was right.
I always plug my phone in before I go to sleep but yesterday I forgot. After all, it’s not that common to spend half the night crying your eyes out because you’ve suddenly realized that going to Scotland for a year might actually be a crappy idea. Maybe my subconscious was trying to give me one last chance to come to my senses. Don’t catch the plane, don’t be the new girl at Dunbridge Academy tomorrow, just enjoy the rest of the summer holidays, and start my Abitur at the Heinrich Heine grammar school in September as if I hadn’t been about to make a major mistake. But that’s impossible because all my friends know I’m going to be away for a year. If I bailed now, I’d really make an idiot of myself. It’d look like I didn’t know what I wanted. But I know exactly what I want. And for that I have to get to Edinburgh.
I chuck the last few things carelessly into my washbag while I brush my teeth.
I have to get there. I’ve known it since I found that cassette and lay awake into the early hours of the morning listening to that song on my old Walkman. ‘For Emma’. The title was like a mocking promise.
That was ten weeks ago now and, deep down, I’m sure I only got a place at this school at such short notice because Mum pulled some strings somewhere. She’s super-good at that. As a lawyer, she always seems to know someone somewhere who owes her a favour. And I was totally sure that I was doing the right thing. Even though Mum didn’t understand why I suddenly wanted to go to boarding school after years of rejecting any such suggestion. I can’t tell her that I have to find my dad. That his voice on the tape sounded totally different from the way I remember it. That it sounded so close, as if his lips had been brushing the mike the whole time he was singing ‘For Emma’. That I listened to the song with goosebumps and a fluttering heart for a whole night, and never again.
That ‘For Emma’ wouldn’t leave me, not even once I googled his name, for the first time in years. Jacob Wiley, still waiting for his big break, still just a man with a guitar and no conscience – there’s no way you can have a conscience if you leave your family for a dream and don’t look back.
Jacob Wiley was born in Glasgow and is a Scottish singer-
And he’s living back there again, at least according to his Wikipedia entry. He’s in Scotland, so I have to go to Scotland. I knew it the first time I voluntarily pulled up the Dunbridge Academy website.
‘Airport, please,’ I pant, a little later, as I clamber into the taxi. I want to close my eyes, not to have to look at the time, but unfortunately it shines reproachfully at me the moment I reach for my phone. This is going to be seriously tight. I’m such an idiot. I have to get to baggage check-in and hope it’s still open, then through security, and make it to my gate. All inside an hour and twenty minutes, after which the plane is due to take off – ideally with me on board.
No idea what I’ll do if it doesn’t work out. I’m sure there’ll be another flight to Edinburgh later on, but do you just get rescheduled if you miss your flight entirely through your own fault?
Mum would know this stuff. But unless I absolutely have to tell her, she’s never going to find out that I’m not even capable of catching my plane. She’d end up interpreting it as a sign that I don’t want to go to Dunbridge Academy. And it’s not a sign. It’s just a stupid, stupid fuck-up.
I send her a WhatsApp claiming to be on the way to my gate – which is kind of true.
It’s seven thirty on a Sunday morning but even now the Frankfurt traffic is remorseless. I shut my eyes as the taxi slows down more and more. Oh, God, I’m so screwed. I’m going to miss the flight and be late to the school. Right from the start I’m going to be the new girl who couldn’t even make it to the first day of term on time.
My pulse is racing when, an eternity later, I jump out of the taxi, grab my luggage and pay the driver. I’ve flown millions of times, but Frankfurt airport is and always will be above and beyond, even when you have plenty of time in hand.
I start running. People and their suitcases are standing around all over the departure hall. They can see I’m in a hurry, but hardly anyone gets out of my way. My inner thigh muscles are still complaining after training on Friday. One last coordination and speed workout with the girls in my club. You’ll love it, Emmi. I was on the Dunbridge athletics team, too. I hear Mum’s voice in my head and pray that she’s right.
My legs are like lead. It’s hard work pushing two suitcases and I can feel a slight stitch in my side. It’s harder than normal to pick up my feet, but I don’t stop. I never stop before I’ve reached my goal. It’s the only thing I ever really persist at. Keep on running, even when I’m almost puking with exhaustion. Keep on running, keep on running, no matter where I’m headed. My dad on the regional express train, in a red carriage, speeding up, faster and faster as I run faster and faster after him. But never fast enough.
Apparently, I look desperate enough that the airline staff open a new window, and I heave my first suitcase onto the belt. The woman behind the counter raises an eyebrow at the number on the digital display, but slaps on the sticky label without a word. Maybe she’ll have pity on me. I hope she’ll have pity on me.
‘You’ll have to hurry – the gate is closing, but I’ll let my colleagues know you’re on your way.’
‘Thank you,’ I gasp, reaching for my documents, then turn and do the one thing I could manage in my sleep.
I run, as fast as I can.
I hate running.
Hate it, hate it, hate it.
It’s stressful enough even when you’re not trying to race from one end of this gigantic airport to the other after a delayed ten-hour flight. Now I remember why I normally avoid having to transfer in Frankfurt: an hour and a half’s transit time is never long enough. Least of all if your flight gets delayed. I ought to write it out somewhere in big fat letters as a reminder next time I book my return flight from Nairobi to Edinburgh.
‘Excuse me, sorry . . .’ For fuck’s sake, why’s it so hard to stick to the stand-on-the-right-walk-on-the-left rule on these endless conveyor-belts? ‘Connecting flight, sorry.’
I barge into elbows and ignore the tightness in my chest. It’s so embarrassing that I can’t run even for five minutes without feeling like I’m about to have an asthma attack. The rucksack on my back suddenly weighs a ton, my hoodie is way too thick, but obviously I didn’t realize that until earlier when I was jammed in with all the other passengers in the cramped aisle of the Boeing, waiting to disembark. I wish I could stop and pull it off but, one, I haven’t got time and, two, I’m past caring.
I stumble as I set foot on solid ground at the end of the travelator. My body wants to carry on – my muscles are barely capable of absorbing the sudden deceleration – and, God, I have to start running more often: I’m so unfit! Maybe I ought to follow Theo’s example. My older brother used to do his revision on the treadmills in the school gym. The brain takes in new information much quicker when you’re moving, Henry, it’s scientifically proven. And it’s scientifically proven that my heart is going to jump out of my chest any moment if I don’t slow down and . . .
Hang on. Gate B 20. B.
I stop so abruptly that a wave of German-sounding swearwords washes over me. My pulse is pounding in my ears again as I stare at the signs above me. Maybe my brain isn’t getting enough blood and I’m hallucinating. Or maybe that actually says Gates C–D.
Fuck. Where did I go wrong? Why is my connecting gate always at the far end of the airport, wherever I’m transferring, and why—
The second I turn around – without looking – there’s a dull thud. That doesn’t sound good. And it doesn’t feel good either. I’d forgotten the way all the air gets crushed out of your lungs when someone runs into you with their full weight. I land on the slippery tiles between a girl’s knees. One of my rucksack straps flies open and the contents scatter over the floor in front of us. Water bottle, headphones, chewing gum, the bag of mini pretzels from the other plane, phone charger, my passport. But I don’t see any of that. All I see is pale blonde chin-length hair and very grey-blue eyes.
‘Sorry, sorry . . .’ she begins, and she keeps talking. I can’t understand her, and I hope that’s not because I got a bang on the head when we fell. The words sound like German, but from her mouth they’re not as harsh.
‘Are you OK?’ I ask in reply. I’m expecting her to pause as she realizes she’ll need to answer in English for me to understand her. But she switches languages without a moment’s hesitation, and, oh, God, why’s that so attractive?
‘Yeah, I think so,’ she says. ‘How about you? Sorry, I shouldn’t have been running like that, but—’
‘No, it’s fine. I wasn’t paying attention.’ My brain fires up again. I bend instinctively to rescue my bottle, which is rolling perilously towards the people hurrying past. As I reach for it, her eyes flit over my things. Almost as if she were silently weighing up whether or not she should help me collect them.
‘Sorry, I . . .’ She pauses as I look at her again. ‘I’m so late, my flight’s leaving and—’
The leaden voice of the airport announcement system interrupts her. She jumps up wildly as the German words echo from the loudspeaker. Then I hold my breath as they’re repeated in English.
‘Last call for passengers Bennington and Wiley. Please go immediately to Gate B 20. Last call.’
‘I’m sorry.’ The girl’s look is as apologetic as it is desperate.
‘Is that you?’ I ask, and she nods. ‘Edinburgh?’
‘Yes,’ I reply.
She hesitates, then reaches for my stuff. ‘OK, we have to hurry.’
We grab my things – three handfuls each. I stuff my headphones into my rucksack upside down, then jump up too. I keep my passport in hand.
‘Wiley?’ I ask, looking at her.
‘Emma,’ she says, pointing to the direction I’ve just come from. ‘And you?’
‘Henry. Pleased to meet you.’ I can only stutter out a few words because my lungs are on fire again. Or still. Either way. ‘Is it far?’ I gasp, gradually dropping back behind her. Emma. The grey-eyed girl. Wow, she’s fast.
‘Don’t know.’ She glances back, gripping her rucksack straps firmly. ‘We have to speed up.’
‘Yes, you can.’
Like hell I can. Unlike her.
She makes it look effortless.
‘No, this way.’ Just before the next travelator, she grabs my wrist and pulls me to the right.
Oh. yeah. Gates B35–1, the sign reads. I must have run right past it before.
Emma mumbles very German and apologetic-sounding words as we run past people with hand-luggage trolleys and dodge small children.
I’m embarrassingly out of breath, while Emma has no more than a clearly rising and falling chest and somewhat flushed cheeks. Can’t be more than a few hundred metres, but this airport corridor seems to be going on for ever.
They’ve already started boarding at gate B24 and there are people everywhere. Right in our way. I thank them from the bottom of my heart because I’m forced to walk a few paces. Emma vanishes into the crowd ahead of me and I make myself run on.
Our gate is empty. It sticks out like a sore thumb amid the other waiting areas, which are full to bursting. I can see the plane through the window, but there’s nobody at the desk.
Fuck . . . I’ve got a stitch and I press my hand to my side.
‘Seriously?’ murmurs Emma. Her voice sounds way too normal after the sprint we’ve just done. ‘They only just called us and . . .’
‘LH 962 to Edinburgh?’ calls a man.
A flight attendant appears, and at that moment, I’d like to fling my arms around his neck.
‘Great. This way, please.’
I’m trying to suppress my wheezing as I pull my phone out of the kangaroo pocket on my hoodie. I bet my face is bright red. Emma looks almost fresh. How the hell is she even human?
I pull up my boarding pass on my phone and hand the flight attendant my passport. Once he’s given it back, I move away slightly to wait for her. Emma’s got her boarding pass printed out on paper and something about that makes me smile. It’s kind of sweet.
She thanks him and she’s blushing a little after all as she looks at me. I think she’s surprised that I waited. And at that moment it happens. Her eyes drop from my face to my chest. I see her stare at the white logo embroidered on the dark blue sweat fabric of my hoodie. The entwined initials of Dunbridge Academy within a simple, ivy-framed shield. Emma recognizes it. I can see it in her eyes. Before she can speak, I’ve scanned through every year group in my mind. No, it’s impossible. She has to be new, or I’d have seen her somewhere before. I might not know all 423 pupils at Dunbridge by name, but I know them by sight. And I never forget a face.
‘You’re at Dunbridge Academy?’ asks Emma, and her voice sounds so awestruck that I’m now absolutely certain.
She’s definitely new. You wouldn’t ask like that unless you only knew the school from the glowing reports on the web.
‘Yes,’ I say, and the flight attendant appears behind Emma.
‘Quickly, please!’ He’s all smiles and gleaming white teeth, but his insistent yet friendly manner gets us both moving again. Emma’s eyes are still fixed on me. I don’t like the way she suddenly seems so abashed.
‘Is this your first year?’
‘Yes.’ Emma gives a thin smile, and suddenly I want to hug her. Or I would if I wasn’t dripping with sweat. And, actually, not even then. We’ve only just met. But why is she alone here? Newbies are usually brought by their parents. Even when they’re from Saudi Arabia or Mexico. Germany is hardly far-flung by the standards of our school.
‘I’m just on a year abroad,’ she says, as we hurry down the long corridor. The walls are close and the carpet swallows our footsteps. I don’t like the way she stares at the floor as she speaks. She seems kind of . . . unhappy.
‘Cool. Your English is great.’
I immediately sense I’ve said something wrong.
‘Thanks,’ she mumbles, as she raises her eyes.
I want to ask her so many questions – where exactly she’s from, if she’s excited, all that stuff – but I can’t because we’ve now reached the plane door. Another flight attendant is waiting for us.
‘Welcome on board,’ she greets us with, but her smile is impatient.
‘Where are you sitting?’ I ask Emma. All the other passengers have their seatbelts fastened. They’re staring at phones already in ‘airplane’ mode or looking towards us in annoyance.
‘Twenty-seven D,’ says Emma, glancing over her shoulder at me. ‘How about you?’
Blast . . . For a moment I seriously wonder how cheeky it would be to ask someone to change places.
‘Here,’ I reply, as we reach twenty-two C. The aisle seat, and obviously there’s nothing free anywhere nearby. The woman in the middle has already got chunky noise-cancelling headphones on and doesn’t look like she wants to be spoken to.
‘Oh, OK.’ Emma doesn’t stop. ‘Enjoy the flight. See you later, Henry.’
‘Yeah.’ I gulp. ‘You too.’
The middle seat in my row is free. Of course it is. It’s booked in Mum’s name, but Mum’s stuck somewhere in Nice, not here beside me.
I realize that only after Henry’s sat down and a flight attendant is telling me not to undo my seatbelt until we’ve reached cruising altitude.
So I sit there, ignoring the cabin crew’s safety announcements and trying to send Henry a message with my eyes, begging him to turn around.
It doesn’t work. He’s on his phone, I can see him typing, then looking up guiltily, presumably because the flight attendant has told him to put it into ‘airplane’ mode.
Turn around, turn around, turn around.
I could gesture to him to come and sit next to me later. Well, if he wants. Would he want to? No idea. Doesn’t matter anyway. I don’t even know if I want him to. No, that’s not true. I do know. I don’t want him to. No way. He seems nice but why should I care? He’s a man. And we all know what that means. Broken hearts and tears shed that we can never get back. Being with someone for six months, only to get a text message out of the blue saying he isn’t feeling it any more. I’ve had enough of guys like Noah from my old school, or my dad who left and never got back in touch. Yet here I am, flying to Scotland to look for him, unable to stop gazing at Henry. Why am I doing this?
Henry doesn’t turn around, and the longer I hope he will, the sillier I feel. We might not even be in the same year. It’s a big enough school that we might never bump into each other again. Which would be a shame . . . God, Emma! Enough now.
I stare at his shoulder in that dark blue hoodie and wonder how old he is. Must be in his final year. There’s something about him. Something self-assured and relaxed. The way the Abitur students stroll down the corridors at home, because they’re so grown-up, so casual, like the whole fucking school belongs to them. But maybe everyone at this boarding school is like that. I guess I’ll soon find out.
Either way, he doesn’t turn. Not that it would mean anything if he did. I pull my headphones out of my bag and play an old One Direction song cos it’s almost time for take-off and I could do with a bit of chill.
Why isn’t he turning round? If he sat beside me, I could start asking him about the school. Or other questions. Why he’s flying from Frankfurt to Edinburgh when he sounds so clearly British that I didn’t even need to ask him where he’s from. Was he on holiday? What’s boarding school like, then, and, oh, do you happen to know a guy named Jacob Wiley? No? Oh, well, never mind, doesn’t matter . . .
I’m so obsessed.
The plane stops taxiing and the engines roar more loudly. I’m pressed back into my seat and, because I’m always a bit nervous about take-offs and landings, I shut my eyes. Just for a moment, just until we’ve levelled out and I can feel halfway confident that we’re all going to survive. Mind you, I’ve heard that landings are more dangerous than take-offs. Whatever . . . Stop thinking about it. I’ll listen to my music and that’s all that matters. Taylor Swift takes over from One Direction, then Lana del Rey from Taylor.
I squint over occasionally. In case Henry turns round. But all I can see are his elbow on the armrest and part of his face resting on his hand. And I can see that he must be seriously tired because his head nods forwards every twenty seconds.
Has he just got off a night flight? The dark rings under his eyes and the fact that he’s wearing jogging bottoms suggest that.
When he pulls up his hood and leans back in the seat with his arms linked behind his head, I turn my eyes away. It’s rude to watch a stranger sleeping, but his brown hair curls under his hood and his eyes really were very green. Dark moss green. Like the green in the school tartan, in the uniform I’m going to wear from tomorrow. Dark blue blazer with a blue-and-green-checked lining and the school crest embroidered on the breast pocket. White shirt and a matching tartan tie.
I can’t stop imagining Henry in that uniform, which I guess suits him very well, as his head sinks further and further towards his chest every minute. If he were sitting beside me, he could rest it on my—
God, Wiley. I shut my eyes again and Lana sings ‘Hope Is A Dangerous Thing For A Woman Like Me To Have’. She doesn’t know how right she is. Or maybe she does. If you write songs like that, you know how it goes. Noah, at school the next day. Saying there was no point to it any more. Me nodding, very calm, no emotions, no tears. Anything not to be the hysterical ex, begging him to stay. Because I should have known. Because everything always repeats itself, always, always, always, and you never figure that out, no matter how much you want to believe in the good in people. When it gets tough, they just leave and no one can stop them.
We don’t need any more men in our lives, Emmi-Mouse. Mum’s voice, and part of me wants to believe her. Because she truly doesn’t need men, just her job and to keep busy, so that she forgets how much it hurts. I can’t forget. Because I’d been unable to breathe as I changed into running clothes – even though it had been a rest day. But a Noah’s-dumped-you day can never be a rest day. It was a day when I had to run to stop myself losing my mind. Because the only way my thoughts stand still is if I do the running for them. But I can’t run now. I can only force myself not to look at Henry. Just as well he’s not sitting next to me. That would be fatal. No way can he sit next to me, fall asleep and lay his head on my shoulder. I’ve got no time for that stuff. Noah ended it and I’m on a mission. It’s perfectly simple. One year, one goal. For me, everything in Scotland has an expiry date. I have to keep reminding myself of that, can’t let myself forget.
And, no, he hasn’t turned around.
It’s a two-hour flight from Frankfurt to Edinburgh, and half an hour before we land, I stand up to go to the toilet. Maybe I’m obsessed, but just wiggling my toes up and down in my trainers and jiggling my feet nervously isn’t enough. I don’t normally have a problem with sitting still for hours at a time, but I don’t normally fly to Scotland to be the new girl at a posh boarding school. I wonder if it’ll really be like the school’s incredibly fancy website. Smiling girls and boys, sitting on the lawn with their books, or strolling across the grounds in uniform. Super-high-tech equipment in the classrooms, within ancient walls. Community not competition, no pressure to achieve. Not that my old school was like that either. Not many people cared enough about their lessons for that, but if Mum’s memories are anything to go by, Dunbridge is different. Dunbridge Obliges. A weird motto, but somehow it fits my image of the school. And Henry. He definitely seems very conscientious, but not in a teacher’s-pet kind of way. Either way, as I walk down the plane’s central aisle, I’m planning to try to make the most of my time in Scotland.
The plane’s only aisle, in fact. On bigger planes and longer flights, you can sneak through the little galley kitchen to the other side of the seats and do a few laps. Here, there’s only the route to the loo and back, but that’s better than nothing.
I close the door on the tiny cabin and stare at myself in the mirror while my head buzzes. In the harsh light, my blonde bobbed hair looks almost white. I tuck a strand behind my ear and press the flush even though I didn’t go. Then I wash my hands, dry them on the stiff paper towels that reject the water rather than absorbing it, and rattle at the door. It opens inwards with a complicated folding mechanism. It fascinates me so much that I don’t spot Henry standing out there until it’s too late.
‘Oh, hi,’ he says, and his voice sounds kind of different over the noise of the plane. He’s smiling but he looks tired, like he’s only just woken up, with slightly puffy eyes and messed-up hair peeking out under his hood.
‘Sleep well?’ I ask, instantly regretting it because now he knows I was watching him.
Henry hesitates, then his smile changes. He shrugs and steps to the side as another woman pushes past him. I don’t understand what she says: her English is unclear and she’s speaking fast. When Henry answers, his English is even faster and less clear. Suddenly, I remember again that I’m going to be living in a foreign country for the next ten months. A foreign country that’s also kind of my home but, let’s be honest, I’ve never even been there.
You’re bilingual – your English is perfect. Isi’s voice in my head makes my stomach lurch. I have a British surname and a German accent, because I haven’t spoken English regularly since I was a child. When he left. I might always be top of the class in English in a German school, but anytime anyone asks me why I’m so good, it’s like a punch in the guts.
‘Didn’t you want to . . .?’ I ask, to take my mind off my thoughts. I point to the toilet door, which the other passenger has just pulled shut.
Henry’s eyes come back to me. ‘No, I . . . I just want to stretch my legs a bit.’
‘Oh, right.’ I gulp.
‘Are you nervous?’
He wants to chat, in this little kitchen at the back of a plane, and that’s fine by me. I’ve read that you have the best chance of surviving a plane crash if you’re sitting right at the back. Sitting, hmm. We’re standing. We’re not even strapped in. I have to stop thinking.
‘No,’ I say, meaning yes.
Henry nods like he knew that. ‘It’ll be fine,’ he says. It’s unfair of him to smile like that. ‘Everyone’s really nice.’ He turns aside slightly, hand over his mouth to cover a yawn. ‘Sorry . . .’
‘Jetlag?’ I ask, and Henry nods. Then he shakes his head.
‘No, not really. There’s no major time difference.’
‘Where have you been then?’
‘Nairobi,’ he replies. ‘It’s only three hours ahead. But it was a night flight.’
‘Couldn’t you sleep?’
‘The woman next to me had a baby in her arms and, well, it was a bit stressful.’
‘What were you doing in Nairobi?’ I ask, running my fingertips over the metal drawers beside me. They’re seriously cold. Henry’s eyes follow my hand and I’m not sure if he heard my question or not. Then he tears his eyes away and looks at me again.
‘Visiting my parents. They work for Médecins Sans Frontières.’ He says it the way you say stuff you’ve said a hundred times before. Like the way I say I barely know my dad because he left when I was eleven.
Henry smiles. ‘What do your parents do?’
‘My mum’s a lawyer,’ I reply. Henry doesn’t ask about my dad. In the silence, I’m thanking him for that. He eyes me briefly, like he’s understood something that nobody ever gets.
‘Didn’t you want her to come with you?’ he asks instead.
‘To the school? . . . Yeah,’ I admit. ‘But she couldn’t. She’s in Nice for work and the French ground crew are on strike.’
‘Bummer,’ he says.
‘Not a problem.’ I grin, but Henry’s watching me like he doesn’t believe me. ‘OK, maybe it’s a bit of a problem, but it can’t be helped.’
‘It might be better that way – then you don’t have to say goodbye to anyone.’ He leans his shoulders on the wall beside us.
‘True.’ I’ve never had to say that kind of goodbye to anyone. Not even from Isi, who didn’t offer to come to the airport with me, which feels kind of weird because if she, my best friend, was going away for a year, I’d have done that for her. But I didn’t want to get into an argument, and it was a very early flight.
‘That was always the worst part for me,’ Henry says. ‘When Mum and Dad used to drop us off at school and drive away again. The half-hour after that . . . not great. Till you move into your room and catch up with your friends and forget that you’re sad.’
I nod, even if I don’t have any friends there to meet up with. There’ll be nobody at Dunbridge Academy to meet me, and suddenly, the idea chokes me up. Maybe Henry reads my thoughts because he goes on speaking.
‘I’ll show you around when we get there. There are times when I wish I could be starting at the school all over again. Everything’s so exciting. It’s like coming home, even if you don’t know it yet.’
I have my doubts about that, and even if he’s right, I’m only staying a year. Maybe I ought to tell him so, but something inside me holds me back. Maybe I’m scared that he’d stop talking like we’re on the same team.
‘I’ll show you everything,’ Henry repeats.
I don’t have time to reply because one of the cabin crew comes towards us.
‘Please take your seats. We’ll be coming in to land shortly.’
Henry nods. His gaze flits over me and I follow him down the aisle back to our seats.
As the aeroplane descends, I start – slowly but surely – to feel the nerves. Once we touch down at the airport, I’ll be in a strange city. Then it’ll really be true. My new reality.
All of the passengers are on their feet as soon as the plane parks. People standing in the aisle cut off my view of Henry and when I eventually get up and pull my
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